health day reporter
TUESDAY, July 19, 2022 (HealthDay News) — — Car crashes and deaths are on the rise in U.S. states that have legalized recreation marijuana, a new study finds.
“Marijuana, like alcohol and just about every other drug, changes the way you feel and how you behave. That’s the purpose of a drug. And it changes the way you drive. We all need to realize what to drive after consuming marijuana is a bad idea,” said lead researcher Charles Farmer, vice president of research and statistical services at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
His team found that after the legalization of marijuana, the rate of car accidents with injuries increased by almost 6%, while fatal accidents increased by 4%. No increase in such accidents was seen in states that had not legalized marijuana, the researchers noted.
These results are consistent with previous studies, Farmer said. “It’s becoming increasingly clear that legalizing marijuana comes at a cost. But marijuana legalization is still a novelty, and there is hope that these early trends can be reversed,” he added.
Farmer believes there are ways to help prevent the consequences of drugged driving. “Perhaps with the right education and enforcement strategies, states considering or in the process of legalizing can avoid the increase in crashes,” he said.
For the study, Farmer and his colleagues looked at five states that have legalized recreational marijuana for people 21 and older (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada) and compared them with states that haven’t. legalized cannabis (Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico). , Utah and Wyoming).
They found that after legalization, but before the retail sale of pots began, the rate of car crashes with injuries jumped by almost 7%. After the start of sales, the accident rate decreased slightly (less than 1%), but the fatal accident rate increased by about 2% before and after the start of retail sales.
Often, drivers under the influence of marijuana drive slowly, the researchers noted. They may not be able to avoid a crash, but their reduced speed can make the collision less deadly, Farmer noted.
In previous studies, Farmer’s team found that marijuana use affects reaction time, road following, lane keeping, and attention, which can make a crash more likely.
Farmer does not believe the legalization of marijuana is the sole cause of the increase in crash rates, and the study cannot prove a direct causal relationship. And unlike alcohol tests, there are no objective measures of marijuana-related impairment, so it’s not possible to accurately account for the role marijuana plays in car crashes, he said.
Changes in crash rates varied by state: Colorado had the biggest jump (18%) and California the smallest (6%) after legalization and the start of retail sales. Nevada’s rate fell (7%). For fatal crashes, increases were seen in Colorado (1%) and Oregon (4%), while decreases were seen in Washington (2%), California (8%) and Nevada (10%). ).
Alex Otte, National President of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), said, “We know that driving while impaired by drugs, alcohol, marijuana or otherwise, is 100% preventable. It’s not an accident. It’s not a mistake. It’s a choice. .”
What’s needed is to change the culture so people understand that it’s not safe to drive after consuming weed, she said.
“We hear things like, ‘Maybe I’m a better driver when I’m stoned’ all the time in pop culture,” Otte said. “I think people are just not aware, as much as they are with alcohol, that there is such a risk associated with driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs, and I think a lot of it comes down to awareness.”
In the future, Otte hopes there will be ways to quantify the effects of pot on driving, like there are for alcohol.
“We know that road tests and things like that to help an officer determine if that person is safe to drive is so important and so necessary,” she said.
Impairment by any drug is a threat to you and everyone else on the road, Otte said. “Even one person injured or killed is one too many,” she said. “I want people to know that it’s a choice and that they have the opportunity to make the right choice and not drive while high.”
The report was published on July 19 in the JJournal of Alcohol and Drug Studies.
To learn more about marijuana, visit the US National Institute on Drug Abuse.
SOURCES: Charles Farmer, PhD, vice president, research and statistical services, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Ruckersville, Va. ; Alex Otte, National President, MADD; Journal of Alcohol and Drug StudiesJuly 19, 2022